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Red light special

How communities can  make a ton of money without raising taxes: 1. Install red-light cameras. 2. Shorten the yello-light time below the federally mandated three seconds. 3. Rake in the dough.

Brian Hughes paid a $50 fine after a camera caught him running a light in Manhattan in 2010.

“A $50 ticket might not seem like a lot to some people, but to me it’s a lot at the end of the day, and so, it makes me overly hesitant when I drive,” Hughes said.

Hughes is part of a class-action suit, alleging fraud against New York City and its 150 red-light cameras. They helped generate more than $235 million over the last five years, including $47 million in fine revenues last year alone and $55.4 million in 2010 after more than 1 million drivers were issued red-light tickets. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is fighting to install more cameras.

“The city in this case, and many other municipalities, have a great incentive to shorten the duration of the yellow lights,” plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph Santoli said. “These tickets and violations and fines are more like a tax on the broad populace rather than targeting and correcting the behavior of bad drivers.”

Tuck this one away to bring back out when (not if) the red-light-camera proposal comes up again in City Council or at the General Assembly. The story notes that 540 communities across the country already have the cameras. How long do you think politicians here can keep resisting such an easy source of revenue?

And is the idea that these officials might actually take actions to threaten public safety while pretending to enhance it -- is that much too cynical or merely realistic?

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